60 seconds with Hope Mathumbu

FB_Hope1New motorist, twitter enthusiast and MCWH Project Officer

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I am enjoying a series of free exercise classes being offered by the Maribyrnong City Council’s Spring into Summer series. I decided to challenge myself this year and signed up for high intensity classes. It’s been a great experience. It’s really nice to live in a council that makes the health and well-being of all its residents a priority, especially given that it can be expensive to do some of these activities on a regular basis.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you have?
I would use my power to let people walk in other people’s shoes for a few hours (maybe days, depending on the person!). The dominant socio-political and economic landscapes really don’t give us the time and space to think about how we affect others or how other people are going. Maybe a bit of empathy would help…I hope so.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I wish I could tap dance or do some other kind of professional dancing, like swing dancing. I think that dancing can be a beautiful physical release.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
It’s a difficult question to answer because it would depend on many factors related to how they arrived and the resources they had when they arrived. I migrated to Australia from South Africa when I was 15 years old in 2003, with my mother and younger sister. Life then was so different, even pathways to social security, permanent residence and citizenship were so different. The only advice I could give to someone now would be practical advice about where to go for services relevant to their needs. I would also advise them to look for online communities where they can find people with similar experiences. Online communities really provide a wealth of information and comfort.

What’s your favourite word and why?
My favourite word is ‘Ubuntu.’ It is a Zulu word or Nguni/Bantu concept which loosely means ‘humanity.’ It is core to black South African humanist philosophy that celebrates common humanity. Ubuntu part of a Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which means that a person is a person through other people. Ubuntu is, at the same time, a deeply personal philosophy that calls on us to mirror our humanity for each other. This philosophy is central to who I am as a person and guides how I go about holding myself on a day to day basis.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant refugee/ background?
The best part about being a woman from an immigrant or refugee background is that I have multiple frames of reference for anything I experience and I feel that makes my life richer. I can’t put it into words, but there is such a great value in understanding concepts or points of view from different cultures and languages.

If you could invite any woman, alive or deceased, to dinner, who would it be and why?
I am unable to choose at the moment, but a shortlist would be: Nina Simone, Rihanna, Tina Turner, Tracy Chapman and the late Sharon Jones. Their music and styles have really influenced me in ways I can’t describe. Love them all!

Name a book or a film that changed your life
A book that changed my life is Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisonwood Bible.’ I read it when I was a teenager. Even though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, it taught me a lot about the lasting effects of colonisation, it also taught me a lot about feminism. I also really like Khalil Gibran’s book ‘The Prophet.’ I like to go back to it from time to time as a way of meditating on various aspects of life.

What are you reading right now? (Blogs, books, magazines, or anything else!)
I read Twitter every minute! If you are following the right people/pages, there is always a lot to learn or think about. I am waiting for holiday season to start reading Roxane Gay’s book ‘Hunger.’ She is a brilliant writer and I wanted to give myself space to read the book with little distraction. I recently finished reading her other book ‘Difficult Women.’ It’s a series of short stories about women and I was really affected when I read that. She has a beautiful way of expressing things I find hard to articulate about my experiences as a woman.

Do you have a song/ music that inspires and motivates you?
It depends on the kind of motivation I need! I really love listening to Tracy Chapman to reenergise myself. I really love her song ‘Telling Stories’ because I feel like it talks about cognitive dissonance, and I feel like unfortunately there is a lot of that in life.

What is your favourite possession?
My car, though I have major guilt at how bad it is for the environment! I got my driver’s licence in Feb 2017. It just opened up my world – and emptied my pockets, but never mind about that! I really love how much more I can do now because of it.

What could you never be without?

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
That white privilege and supremacy are real and need to be dismantled, along with capitalism.